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Devian Wilson returns to give Ruston more firepower on offense

Monday, October 11, 2021
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For the first month of the 2021 season, Devian Wilson was champing at the bit on the Ruston High sidelines — spending part of that time in a walking boot.

While he was rehabbing from his second foot surgery in two years, he was forced to watch as his teammate Dyson Fields was carving up defenses.

“I can’t wait until I can get in there. Wait until you see me,” Wilson said to the Ruston Daily Leader as he paced along the sidelines while the Bearcats were battering Airline High 50-0 on Sept. 17.

That’s the confidence of a man who knows his position. He may be a fullback, but Wilson is full-on Bearcat.

By the time head coach Jerrod Baugh mentioned that Wilson could return for the road game at St. Thomas More in Lafayette in week five, Fields had already carried the ball 121 times in the first four games.

Baugh was concerned at that point about putting too much of a workload on his tailback. Wilson returned for STM and the offense kicked it up another notch the last two weeks.

Case in point Friday night against Pineville.

The Rebels decided they would take Fields out of the offense in the first quarter, loading the box and keying on him on every play. He managed only 19 yards by halftime.

When one door is closed, there is another open — wide open.

The 6-0, 236-pound Wilson put the team on his broad shoulders with no problem. On Ruston’s first two drives — both reaching the end zone — Wilson carried the ball 5 times for 75 yards and scored both touchdowns.

“Our style of offense it’s imperative to have a good fullback. You don’t really see it a lot these days though,” Baugh said.

When Pineville altered its defense, Ruston shifted its offense as an answer. In the third quarter, Wilson became more of a punishing blocker for Fields, who put up 147 of his 166 rushing yards in the third before leaving the game.

That type of versatility from the fullback position opens the RHS offense up even more. And nobody plays the hybrid full-on Bearcat better than No. 3.

“Devian may be the best blocking fullback I’ve seen in all my years in coaching,” Baugh said emphatically. “He is so good in all three phases — blocking, running the football and in the passing game.”

Baugh doesn’t hand out hyperbole often, if you know him. He went a step further to describe Wilson’s abilities.

“We had Chris Ivory when I was at Longview (Texas) and he played that same position for us. I think Devian is even better at this stage of his career than Chris was. Two two of them are very similar type players though.”

Ivory, who was signed by the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent in 2010, also played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills during his 9 seasons in the NFL out of Washington State. Ivory played at 6-0 and 225 pounds, very similar to Wilson’s stature.

Since his return to the lineup, Wilson has flexed his muscles in the run game as well as blocking for Fields and quarterback Jaden Osborne. Against STM, he rushed 16 times for 84 yards and 2 TDs. Friday night he finished with 6 carries for 78 yards and 2 TDs. In two games, he’s averaging 7.4 yards per carry and he scores a touchdown every 5.5 touches.

He hasn’t been involved much in the passing game, yet, simply because the Cats were trying to control the clock against STM and get out of Pineville with the blowout win without injuries piling up.

Make no mistake, his presence in the offense gives the Bearcats a Ghidora-type feel — a three-headed monster with Osborne, Wilson and Fields.

It wasn’t like the Bearcats were suffering without Wilson, though. Junior Jachua Knighton (5-11, 259) filled in admirably. His ability to lead Fields through the line of scrimmage played a huge part in the Ruston offense building to its crescendo.

“It’s not a knock on Jachua because he did a fantastic job for us when Devian was out, but Devian gives us more experience in the offense,” Baugh explained. “It’s been really good to have him back out there. He gives us such a physical presence in our offense. Then you have Jachua who can come in and play and we don’t drop off. It’s a luxury to have two guys that size at such a key position. When you look at our style of offense, the fullback position is an extension of our offensive line.”

While the Cats have played a tough schedule up to this point — wins over three teams (Oxford, Miss., Carencro and St. Thomas More) that have won state championships in the last two seasons — the most important games lie ahead like an intimidating obstacle course.

A road game this week at Ouachita High precedes two homes games in the final three weeks against Alexandria Senior High and West Monroe. Fans who visit Hoss Garrett Stadium on the regular know the Rebels are Ruston’s albatross.

West Monroe has won 99 straight district games.

It will be all hands on deck for those battles. The Bearcats feel much better with Wilson back in the fray.

Only four games remain in Wilson’s final regular season in red, silver and white.

It’s full-on Bearcat time.